Neuroethics Essay Contest

Neuroethics Essay Contest

The Neuroethics Essay Contest aims to promote interest in neuroethics among students and trainees early in their academic careers. The contest is held annually and is open to any student in high school or secondary school, any post-secondary student, and any postdoctoral fellow or similar early-career trainee.

The contest is organized by the members of the INS Student/Postdoc Committee and leadership from the International Youth Neuroscience Association (IYNA), and has been supported every year by Dr. Michael Patterson, former editor of the Kopf Carrier and long-time supporter of neuroethics.

The 2021 contest has concluded and recognitions are listed below. 

The 2022 contest will be announced next March. The submission deadline will likely be sometime in July. You may review last year's essay call for an overview about author eligibility, essay topics, and submission instructions.

2021 Recognitions

The INS and IYNA have selected the following authors for their outstanding essay submissions to the respective categories of the Neuroethics Essay Contest in 2021. Links to essays are made available as authors grant permission to share or when essays are published in outside publications.

Top student essays on ethical issues in brain science selected in the Neuroethics Essay Contest
September 16, 2021

Academic Essays


Continued access to invasive neural devices: lessons from the AIDS epidemic
Nathan Luke Higgins, Monash University (Australia)

Nathan Higgins profile photo

Nathan Higgins is a first-year doctoral candidate at the Neuroscience and Society research group at Monash University. His research focuses on the development and dissemination of novel invasive neurotechnologies and how this can be done responsibly. After finishing his degree, he hopes to continue his research in neuroethics in a post-doctoral position.

Honorable Mentions

Exploring the relationship of neuroethics and religion: mapping out the trajectory of Islamic perspectives on neuroethics
Noorina Noorfuad, Hamad Bin Khalifa University (Qatar)

Redefining indigenous brain health: de-centering Western science, colonialism, and normative ethics
Naryeong Kim, Stanford University (South Korea)

General Audience Essays


Beyond Disinformation: Deep Fakes and False Memory Implantation
Erin Morrow, Emory University (United States)

Erin Morrow profile photo

Erin Morrow is the lead research assistant at the Hamann Cognitive Neuroscience Lab and a fourth-year undergraduate at Emory University studying neuroscience and behavioral biology. Her scholarship lies in the neural and behavioral correlates of human memory, including emotional enhancement effects. Erin plans to pursue doctoral study in psychology and later serve as an advisor on memory-relevant policy in the public sector. Erin is also an INS intern and the Managing Editorial Intern at AJOB Neuroscience. 

Honorable Mentions

Minorities Left Out of Historic Alzheimer's Treatment
Sanjana P. Padala, Vanderbilt University (United States)

Neurotechnology Will Worsen the Socio-economic Divide if we Let It
Cody Slater, Columbia University (United States)

High School Essays


Exploring the Ethical Implications of Neurotheological Studies
Rafael Hiu Nok Au (Hong Kong)

Rafael Hiu Nok Au profile photo

Rafael Au (he/him) is a high school junior student at Diocesan Boys’ School, Hong Kong. His interest in neuroscience begins with investigating the neurophysiological effects of psychotherapies under a research mentorship at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. As an aspiring psychiatrist, he would like to develop a deeper understanding on the ethics of neuropsychological research and how it can be extended to both a clinical setting and the wider society.

Honorable Mentions

The Rise of Neuro-Enhancing Drugs: An Ethical Quandary of Nootropics and How It Can Impact Society As We Know It
Pragya Kumar (United States)

Magic Medicine? A Multi-faceted Approach to Justifying Psychedelic Therapy
Akshara Sankar (United States)

The Neuroethics of Predictive Policing: Exploring How Human Bias Affects Predictive Policing Algorithms
Arush Adabala (United States)

2020 Recognitions

The INS and IYNA have selected the following authors for their outstanding essay submissions to the respective categories of the Neuroethics Essay Contest in 2020. Links to essays are made available as authors grant permission to share or when essays are published in outside publications.


Image of Sarah R. Zinn

Sarah Zinn is a doctoral candidate at The University of Chicago in the midst of a career change from chemistry to social psychology. In her spare time, while working on her chemistry doctorate, Sarah is researching the effect of acutely stigmatizing interactions on cognitive task performance. After degree completion, Sarah hopes to transition to a postdoctoral position to research the psychological and behavioral responses to cultural constructions of the body and how these constructions impact science, medicine and policy.


  • Isobel Butorac, King's College London (United Kingdom) – How Empirical Data on a Brain Death Case Informs the Conceptual Discussion Around Epistemic Injustice of African-American Patients in the U.S. Healthcare System
  • Asad Beck, University of Washington (United States) – Machine Learning and Neural Signals: Potential Problems of Low Interpretability
  • Justin Wong, Harvard University (United States) – Thoughts, Thinkers, and a Hollow Substitute for Mental Privacy
  • Anna Elizabeth Ulrey, University of Alabama at Birmingham (United States) – Clear and Present Danger: Neuroethical Concerns About Governmental Policy on E-Cigarette Usage Among Adolescents


Image of Eddie Jacobs

Eddie Jacobs is a research assistant at the University of Oxford's Department of Psychiatry and Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities. Having worked on scientific and policy projects at the Beckley Foundation, a UK-based NGO that researches psychedelics, in October he will begin a PhD in outlining the ethical challenges of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, how these challenges might best be met, and how they invite a reconsideration of frameworks of psychiatric practice.


  • Inchara M., Christ University (India) – Synapses that Sell! Exploring the Ethics behind Consumer Neuroscience
  • Laure Tabouy, University of Paris-Saclay (France) – The Gut Microbiota and Brain: A Story of a Dialogue Opening Up Neuroethical Issues
  • Connie Y. Lu, Harvard Medical School (United States) – Neuromarketing and the Potential Misuse of Data for Political Maneuvering


Image of Cherie Fernandes

Cherie Fernandes is a rising senior at The Lawrenceville School. She has only just started exploring the world of neuroscience through independent reading and research in psychophysics via a virtual summer internship at Perelman's Gold Lab, an opportunity for which she is immensely grateful. She is particularly interested in the interdisciplinary nature of the field, and would love to learn more about topics in the realm of cognitive science as she continues her education.


  • Yuanmeng Zhang (United States) – Common Consequences: The Case for Patient-to-Patient Education during Deep Brain Stimulation
  • Yashwanth Gokarakonda (United States) – Equity, Equality, and Restraint: The Ethics of Neuroenhancement in Education
  • Angelina Xu (United States) – Innocent Before Proven Guilty? Unconscious Implications of Race in the Criminal Justice System

The winning and honorable mention essays, as well as a few other top selections, from the high school category have been published in the December 2020 issue of the IYNA Journal.

2019 Recognitions

Top student essays selected in the Neuroethics Essay Contest – The INS and International Youth Neuroscience Association (IYNA) have selected Khayla Black, Sunidhi Ramesh and Prithvi Nathan as the winning authors of the 2019 contest. Each winner received a 1-year membership to the INS and has been invited to be recognized at the 2019 annual meeting. The winning essays will be published on the Dana Foundation website, and all eligible submissions to the high school category will be considered for publication in the IYNA Journal

Academic Essay

Image of Khayla Black
Khayla Black

New York University Shanghai

Khayla Black is a sophomore at New York University Shanghai majoring in neural sciences. Her research interests include synaptic physiology, aging, and the molecular basis of learning and memory. She hopes to earn a doctorate in neuroscience and study synaptic physiology and how neurotransmission changes with age. Outside of neuroscience, she spends her time working in the quantum technologies group at NYU Shanghai and running.

General Audience

Image of Sunidhi Ramesh in front of a poster presentation
Sunidhi Ramesh

Sidney Kimmel Medical College

Sunidhi Ramesh is a second year medical student at Sidney Kimmel Medical College and the managing editor of The Neuroethics Blog. She is also the education co-director for the Philadelphia Human Rights Clinic. Sunidhi graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Emory University in 2018 with degrees in sociology and neuroscience. Her current research centers around neurology and neurosurgery, particularly on perceptions of invasive brain surgery, novel acute ischemic stroke interventions, and the implementation of tele-stroke protocols in hospital emergency rooms.

High School

Prithvi Nathan

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology

2018 Recognitions


General Audience

2017 Recognitions


General Audience

2016 Recognitions


2015 Recognitions


2014 Recognitions



Essay contest winners Khayla Black, Sunidhi Ramesh and Prithvi Nathan; Supporter Dr. Michael Patterson; Hank Greely, past president of the INS

Winning authors 2019: Khayla Black, Sunidhi Ramesh and Prithvi Nathan; pictured with contest supporter Dr. Michael Patterson, far left, and Hank Greely, past president of the INS, back row second from right.

Dr. Michael Patterson

The INS started the Neuroethics Essay Contest in 2014 and Dr. Mike Patterson has been involved from the beginning, publishing winning essays in the quarterly trade publication Kopf Carrier and providing two winning authors with a $250 travel stipend to attend the annual meeting. Although retired from his role as editor of the Kopf Carrier, Dr. Patterson continues to promote interest in neuroethics among students and early career professionals through his support for the contest.

About the INS

The International Neuroethics Society is an interdisciplinary group of scholars, scientists, clinicians, and other professionals dedicated to encouraging and inspiring research and dialogue on the responsible use of advances in brain science. Practitioners from a wide range of disciplines join the Society to interact, learn, and participate in critical neuroethics discussions that further this growing field.